Mortimer started violently.
"Followed! By whom?"
"That, unfortunately, is what I cannot tell you. Have you among your neighbours or acquaintances on Dartmoor any man with a black, full beard?"
"No--or, let me see--why, yes. Barrymore, Sir Charles's butler, is a man with a full, black beard."
"Ha! Where is Barrymore?"
"He is in charge of the Hall."
"We had best ascertain if he is really there, or if by any possibility he might be in London."
"How can you do that?"
"Give me a telegraph form. 'Is all ready for Sir Henry?' That will do. Address to Mr. Barrymore, Baskerville Hall. What is the nearest telegraph-office? Grimpen. Very good, we will send a second wire to the postmaster, Grimpen: 'Telegram to Mr. Barrymore to be delivered into his own hand. If absent, please return wire to Sir Henry Baskerville, Northumberland Hotel.' That should let us know before evening whether Barrymore is at his post in Devonshire or not."
"That's so," said Baskerville. "By the way, Dr. Mortimer, who is this Barrymore, anyhow?"
"He is the son of the old caretaker, who is dead. They have looked after the Hall for four generations now. So far as I know, he and his wife are as respectable a couple as any in the county."
"At the same time," said Baskerville, "it's clear enough that so long as there are none of the family at the Hall these people have a mighty fine home and nothing to do."
"That is true."
"Did Barrymore profit at all by Sir Charles's will?" asked Holmes.
"He and his wife had five hundred pounds each."
"Ha! Did they know that they would receive this?"
"Yes; Sir Charles was very fond of talking about the provisions of his will."
"That is very interesting."
"I hope," said Dr. Mortimer, "that you do not look with suspicious eyes upon everyone who received a legacy from Sir Charles, for I also had a thousand pounds left to me."
"Indeed! And anyone else?"
"There were many insignificant sums to individuals, and a large number of public charities. The residue all went to Sir Henry."
"And how much was the residue?"
"Seven hundred and forty thousand pounds."
Holmes raised his eyebrows in surprise. "I had no idea that so gigantic a sum was involved," said he.
"Sir Charles had the reputation of being rich, but we did not know how very rich he was until we came to examine his securities. The total value of the estate was close on to a million."
"Dear me! It is a stake for which a man might well play a desperate game. And one more question, Dr. Mortimer. Supposing that anything happened to our young friend here--you will forgive the unpleasant hypothesis!--who would inherit the estate?"
"Since Rodger Baskerville, Sir Charles's younger brother died unmarried, the estate would descend to the Desmonds, who are distant cousins. James Desmond is an elderly clergyman in Westmoreland."
"Thank you. These details are all of great interest. Have you met Mr. James Desmond?"
"Yes; he once came down to visit Sir Charles. He is a man of venerable appearance and of saintly life. I remember that he refused to accept any settlement from Sir Charles, though he pressed it upon him."
"And this man of simple tastes would be the heir to Sir Charles's thousands."
"He would be the heir to the estate because that is entailed. He would also be the heir to the money unless it were willed otherwise by the present owner, who can, of course, do what he likes with it."
"And have you made your will, Sir Henry?"
"No, Mr. Holmes, I have not. I've had no time, for it was only yesterday that I learned how matters stood. But in any case I feel that the money should go with the title and estate. That was my poor uncle's idea. How is the owner going to restore the glories of the Baskervilles if he has not money enough to keep up the property? House, land, and dollars must go together."
"Quite so. Well, Sir Henry, I am of one mind with you as to the advisability of your going down to Devonshire without delay. There is only one provision which I must make.